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To build the PlayStation Classic, Sony turned to an open-source emulator

Take a moment to savor the irony.

Gordon Gottsegen CNET contributor
Gordon Gottsegen is a tech writer who has experience working at publications like Wired. He loves testing out new gadgets and complaining about them. He is the ghost of all failed Kickstarters.
Gordon Gottsegen
2 min read

The PlayStation Classic releases Dec. 3.

John Kim / CNET

Sony's PlayStation Classic will offer gamers a library of twenty classic PS1 games when it comes out on Dec. 3, but you won't need to change discs to play them: just like with the NES and SNES Classic, this micro-console is actually a tiny computer running emulation software. Unlike Nintendo's throwback console, however, the PlayStation Classic's on-board emulator wasn't made in-house by Sony. It was made by fans.

The software that beats at the heart of the PlayStation Classic is actually an open-source emulator called PCSX ReArmed -- as noted in licensing info in the PlayStation Classic's menu, spotted by Kotaku. It's an ARM-based fork of the PCSX Reloaded project, and was originally designed to run on the Pandora handheld.

Believe it or not, the fact that the PlayStation Classic is using a fan-made emulator to run its games is actually pretty unique: Video game companies have butted heads with open-source emulators for a long time. Sony has even sued emulator makers in the past, going as far as buying companies to shut down emulation.

Sony isn't breaking any rules by using the open-source software -- it's well within its rights to -- but seeing the company use the work of emulation community to help build its new throwback console is a weird, ironic twist.

It's also a big win for the legitimacy of that community, as game historian Frank Cifaldi points out:

The PlayStation Classic will launch on December 3rd for $99.99. Interested? Check out our hands-on preview to see if it's worth your nostalgia.